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Research Questions

Our Self-Study will take advantage of the complementarities between our current accreditation and strategic planning efforts. In addition to their role in assisting the Study Groups in demonstrating compliance with Middle States standards, we have developed questions designed to focus our attention on important and useful issues that will help us to identify margins where we can continue to improve our effectiveness.

Integrating the Work of the Strategic Planning Process into the Self Study’s Treatment of Mission and Goals

  1. How do we determine how we well are achieving our mission? Are our efforts effective?
  2. How well does the strategic plan position us to meet the changing nature of higher education in the decade ahead?
  3. Are the mission and strategic plan sufficiently flexible for us to be able to respond to internal and external opportunities and changes, including, changing demographics, and new instructional methods and technologies?
  4. To what extent was the strategic plan developed in a collaborative manner and informed by institutional assessment?
  5. How can UMBC better encourage, motivate, build the capacity of, and reward faculty, staff, and students for their facilitation and leadership of extended connections and partnerships and for their support of other aspects of our mission and goals?

Study Group on Providing a Foundation for Effective Results: Planning, Budgeting, and Institutional Resources

  1. How is overall university planning reflected in resource allocation for both annual operations and capital projects at both institutional and unit levels? What resources are needed to attain our goals in research, scholarship, and creative activities?
  2. What planning issues might the University anticipate facing in the next five years? How effective has the university been in monitoring internal and external forces and in adapting its planning to reflect them?
  3. How does the budget development and approval process ensure that strategic initiatives are properly addressed and that new initiatives are consistent with the strategic plan?
  4. How does the university review budget allocations on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are achieving their intended purposes and that they continue to be necessary going forward?
  5. What incentives (or disincentives) exist for administrative and academic support units and departments to maintain budget control, cost reduction, and work process improvement? Have these incentives influenced behavior in unintended ways?
  6. How have UMBC programs leveraged resources, partnerships, technology, and innovations to enhance student learning? What additions would be needed to significantly improve student learning and how should they be prioritized? What specific opportunities and challenges related to classrooms, infrastructure, technology support, and faculty development exist to support curricular and pedagogical innovations?
  7. What personnel, technology, and other resources are necessary to create a campus-wide system to record and track partnerships and engagement with the community, as well as evaluate their effectiveness and impact for diverse constituencies (e.g., faculty, staff, students, community partners, surrounding neighborhoods, the state, and the region)?

Study Group on Assessing Results and Continuing the Development of a Formalized, Periodic, and Proactive Institutional Effectiveness Function

  1. Does UMBC have a documented, organized, and sustained assessment process to coordinate, evaluate, and improve the total range of programs and services in alignment with the university’s mission, goals, and the standards for accreditation? How are the assessment results shared? How are they used?
  2. To what extent do administrative structures and services facilitate learning, research, and scholarship? How effective are current research support mechanisms in promoting quality research and how are these mechanisms assessed? Do our policies and values promote the appropriate level of integration between research and civic engagement? Are these policies and values shared throughout the campus leadership and the community?
  3. What priorities and metrics should be used to track progress and success in our goal to enhance UMBC’s research, scholarship, and creative activities? How is F&A income distribution assessed to ensure and maintain the infrastructure for ongoing research?
  4. To what degree has the university articulated and achieved its goals regarding diversity and the optimal balance between tenured and tenure-track, full-time, and adjunct faculty? What effect has the increased number of part-time faculty and lecturers had on student success? How is this effect assessed as part of the decision making process for future hires?
  5. Do adequate processes exist to plan for faculty and staff resignations and retirements? In the case of faculty, how have we prepared for the subsequent startup packages that come with new hires?
  6. Has the university developed an adequate plan to replace key personnel?
  7. Drawing on national best practices, what is the appropriate balance between supporting the instructional duties of the faculty in: 1) areas of existing strength, 2) areas that need strengthening, and 3) areas of academic innovation? How can new support and the reallocation/redesign of existing support be used to enhance classroom infrastructure, technology, and faculty development in all three areas? What best practices in faculty reward and recognition, including P&T and prestigious awards, can UMBC utilize to support high quality teaching and encourage curricular and pedagogical innovation? How effective are total compensation packages in attracting and retaining qualified faculty and staff during a period of economic stress?
  8. How well do central administrative services, academic, and academic support units support the mission of UMBC? How are they assessed and are the results shared broadly? What are the experiences of undergraduate and graduate students with interactions, delivery of service and care of campus offices, units, departments, faculty, and staff? How does faculty and staff infrastructure impact student experiences?
  9. Is assessment ongoing and adequately supported in gathering and analyzing data implementing change and monitoring performance?
  10. Does the university provide students and prospective students with education and tools that allow them to make well-informed decisions about student loans or other forms of debt they might use to finance their education? Is financial literacy a valued and supported initiative on campus?
  11. Drawing on national best practices, how can UMBC balance supporting existing academic programs and the development of new programs? What metrics can we use to track whether we have achieved the appropriate balance as well as the best mix of academic fields and degree levels/options?

Study Group on Assessing Student Success and Learning Outcomes to Enhance Institutional Effectiveness

  1. How are we measuring student learning? How can we improve our existing measures? What additional measures should be adopted?
  2. What measures of success for students have we used in addition to retention and graduation rates? What should we use as the critical measures of academic success? How can we use assessment of these critical measures to support continuous improvement of student learning outcomes at UMBC?
  3. In 2009, UMBC developed an assessment plan to aid the university in fulfilling its mission to provide high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs. In what ways has the evidence gathered during the plan’s implementation helped us to improve student learning?
  4. How well is assessment used to improve other aspects of the undergraduate and graduate student experience that influence student learning and success? This should include the activities of the individual colleges, schools and appropriate administrative units
    1. What are the assessment activities and how are they organized at each unit?
    2. How are the methods and findings of student learning assessment shared broadly with appropriate constituencies?
    3. How are the results of assessments used to guide strategies for improving the undergraduate and graduate experience?
  5. What are the lessons learned from studies of retention and graduation rates at UMBC and elsewhere, and how can this information guide us to increase student success by developing innovative programs, curricula, classroom practices, and instructional modes at the undergraduate and graduate levels?
  6. How does the current profile of our faculty, students, and mix of programs compare with our aspirational peers, and how does this profile align with the University’s mission? What approaches used by peers might UMBC adopt to strike an appropriate balance between in- and out-of-state students, and the distribution of students among programs?
  7. How does UMBC provide support to enrolled students who are identified as being “at risk”? How effective are these support services?
  8. What approaches used by peers might UMBC use to meet the needs of historically underrepresented students (demographic characteristics such as gender and socio-economic status) and to align our student profile with the University’s mission in the future?
  9. What are the factors that facilitate or impede the effective recruitment of talented undergraduate and graduate students? What is the most effective distribution of financial aid? How well do our programs assist undergraduate and graduate students to limit their student debt?
  10. How is UMBC preparing for anticipated demographic changes that will affect the enrollment pool? How are those trends being reflected in long term strategic planning?